Thanks to Pescadero's TomKat Ranch, senior clients at the in Half Moon Bay are now able to participate in gardening as well as enjoy the benefits of their labor in daily meals.
Harvested on a wall less than fifty feet from the Center's front door, the vegetables couldn't be any more local than if the Center itself was on a farm.
"We're lucky," says Janie James, Executive Director at the Coastside Adult Day Health Center. "We can grow our vegetables with almost no maintenance at all."
The seniors eat the vegetables in their daily salads, as well as in soups, according to James.
The garden was donated earlier this year from TomKat Ranch and INKA Biospheric Systems, a San Francisco-based company. It was planted at the ranch by INKA biologist Doug Millar with help from seniors at the Center.
The vegetables in the garden grow hydroponically — that is, in a nutrient-enriched solution without soil. According to INKA, this method requires a minimum amount of water. In addition to their use for conservation purposes, hydroponic wall gardens can also be used in places where appropriate land and water resources are not available.
James said that the connection between the Center and TomKat was made by Mike Giannini, who works for the ranch's Left Coast Grassfed beef project.
"Mike's grandfather Angelo Giannini is a client at the Center and a former farmer," said James. "TomKat was already donating hamburger to us from Left Coast Grassfed," she said.
Like Left Coast Grassfed, INKA Biospheric Systems is a social enterprise project funded by TomKat Ranch's Educational Foundation, says Lita Reyes, INKA's Marketing Director.
James says the garden's presence has many benefits for their clients. "Our seniors get the nutrition from these vegetables in their lunch every day, but they also can help to maintain the garden as well because it's accessible to them," she said. "They don't have to bend down and it doesn't put any stress on them. The seniors in wheelchairs can just roll right up," she said.
Measuring 3 feet by 3.5 feet, the garden is a self-contained unit which can support 25 plants placed in any of its "pockets."
Each pocket holds one plant, and is made with a fabric called Bio-Quilt that covers the entire back panel of the garden, Millar says.
"Bio-Quilt is made out of polypropylene, which doesn't give off gas," he said, adding that the materials used are of food-grade quality.
"Because the polypropylene is virgin plastic, it maintains food quality and its integrity," he said.
Half Moon Bay's agricultural roots makes the garden particularly applicable to the local senior community, James said, given that their clients include former farmers like Angelo Giannini.
"A lot of our people here live in the past versus the future...this brings a nice connection to their lives as farmers," James said.
The Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education in San Mateo also features an INKA vertical garden. Click here to see it on display.
Watch Part I of the video on the vertical garden at the Coastside Adult Day Health Center in the media box to the right. Part II continues tomorrow.